Dealing with vomit is one of those parts of parenthood that non-parents can’t quite imagine. After all, it’s just so, well, gross. But somehow, I’ve found that dealing with my kids’ vomit isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Liam’s recent illness (which is starting its spread through the family) got me thinking about why this is.
Part of the why is that after nearly 21 years of parenthood my husband and I are experts at Vomit Maneuvers. We’ve learned, for example, that:
• Towels can be really useful for protecting beds and furniture (and can go directly into the laundry). We lay them around everywhere during vomiting illnesses and keep piles handy.
• When kids get old enough to vomit into something (preschool-ish), it’s best to use something really wide, because their aim is terrible (even when they get bigger).
• It’s also best to use something you don’t need to use for anything else, because you’ll never look at it the same way again.
• There is a certain noise and facial expression before vomiting commences, and if you learn it and pay attention it gives you just enough time to grab that towel or bowl or at least move the kid over a floor that’s easy to clean.
• It’s never a good idea to aim a vomiting baby or child over a sink—the cleanup is nasty and can involve picking particulate matter out of the drain. Toilets are the way to go.
(I love this clip. Sorry, I couldn’t figure out how to trim the ads at the end–just watch the first 22 seconds)
But it’s not just that we have figured out how to spare furniture and minimize cleanup. And it’s not that we aren’t grossed out by vomit, because we are. I hate the smell just like anyone else, and have had to hold back my own vomit as I’ve held back my daughters’ hair or extricated babies from vomit-covered clothing. Being a parent doesn’t make you immune to that stuff, sadly.
No, it’s something different.
I didn’t realize my phone was silenced the other day when my mother-in-law called to tell me Liam was vomiting, and I missed the call. When I saw it an hour later and called her, she told me that Liam kept asking her, “Did you call my mother?” (It will take years for me to get over that guilt.)
Now, Liam loves being with his Nana more than anything. The first thing he says in the morning is often, “Is it a Nana day?” But when he’s sick or hurt or sad or scared, he wants my husband and me. We are necessary; we are safety and comfort and certainty all mixed together. We are, in our own way, magic. That’s why it works when we kiss the bumps and scrapes (I draw the line at diaper rashes), and why, if we are nearby, even the worst things seem manageable.
It’s pretty amazing to be magic to someone, especially someone you love so incredibly.
That, I think, is what gets us parents through the vomiting and diarrhea and bloody noses and even the more serious moments of parenthood. We get through them because our children need us to; we get through them because our children need us.
So I’m ready for everyone else to start vomiting. I’ve washed the towels and cleaned out the big wide bowl. Bring it on.